Investors keen to join space race with India’s start-ups, Latest Business News - The New Paper

Investors keen to join space race with India’s start-ups

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MUMBAI: From companies building palm-size satellites to those aiming to propel satellites into space using cleaner fuels, a new wave of space technology start-ups are mushrooming in India, catching the attention of investors.

Bengaluru-based Bellatrix Aerospace, which wants to propel satellites into orbit using electric and non-toxic chemical thrusters, has raised US$3 million (S$4 million) from a group of investors, co-founder Yashas Karanam told Reuters.

Venture capital fund IDFC-Parampara is leading Bellatrix's pre-Series A round. The family office of Mr Suman Kant Munjal, who belongs to the billionaire family that controls Indian motorcycle-maker Hero MotoCorp, and Ms Deepika Padukone, one of Bollywood's biggest stars, are two of the investors.

Mumbai-based Kawa Space, which designs and operates earth observation satellites, has closed a seed round of an undisclosed amount, said one of its investors, Speciale Invest managing partner Vishesh Rajaramsaid.

Bellatrix and Kawa are two of over a dozen start-ups developing satellites, rockets and support systems that can power space missions.

Their fund raising represents a big leap in private space investments in India, where the government has enjoyed a near monopoly for decades.

"No venture capital firm that does tech investments in India has invested an amount of this size in space technology before," said co-founder of online space product marketplace Satsearch Narayan Prasad of Bellatrix's funding.

Besides Bellatrix and Kawa, seven space tech companies in India are funded, according to start-up data tracker Tracxn and interviews with investors.

Space tech is hot, thanks partly to activity 2,000km above the earth in the low-earth orbit, much closer and easier to reach than the geostationary orbit where many communications satellites operate.

Here, small and cheaper satellites are snapping images used in everything from crop-monitoring and geology to defence, bringing down costs and increasing the frequency of images.

India's space tech companies are part of a new breed of start-ups, and investors are paying attention.

Satellite launches planned in the coming years worldwide give investors confidence in such companies, said Bellatrix investor Jatin Desai, whose Parampara Capital collaborated with lender IDFC to form IDFC-Parampara.

"That gives us a large addressable potential market," Mr Desai said.

Over 17,000 small satellites could be launched between 2018 and 2030, consulting firm Frost & Sullivan estimated.

"There is money to be made ... These are exciting times for lots of entrepreneurs," said Mr Rajaram of Speciale Invest. - REUTERS